One of the most genuinely anticipated movies of its time, The Matrix Reloaded saturated theaters with an expectation of excellence that few films would ever be able to meet. But even with unrealistic expectations taken into account, this first sequel to The Matrix still disappoints. Respect must be given to the ambition, complexity, and sheer scale of the endeavor, but this quickly gives way to the significant problems with pacing and structure that didn't exist in the first movie. Case in point: After a brief blaze of action, The Matrix Reloaded settles into nearly 30 minutes of talk, talk, and more talk. Weighed down by these overlong sections of meaningless blather among insignificant characters, there are some truly head-scratching scenes that could've easily been excised -- Neo's (Keanu Reeves) late-night encounter with Councillor Harmann (Anthony Zerbe) being the most glaring example -- and the remainder of the movie strains to regain lost audience enthusiasm after this point. Where The Matrix was tightly structured and fast-paced, The Matrix Reloaded plays out on a larger scale, with its various pieces struggling to cohere together. The lengthy action sequences are motivated less by plot than by the need to have another action sequence, and though the story has a wobbly arc of its own, the finale feels as if it was arbitrarily cut to create a cliffhanger that's more puzzling than "whoa" inducing. Those expecting something as new and surprising as the first Matrix may also be let down by the sequel's lack of a truly dazzling effect on the magnitude of "bullet-time." Instead, the old effects are refined and reused in set pieces like an exhausting 14-minute vehicle chase and a CG fight sequence that comes close to replicating the look of reality. It's telling that one of the most entertaining action scenes -- the precise hand-to-hand combat between Neo and Seraph (Collin Chou) -- is also one of the simplest. But in sequel-land, simple is rarely good enough, and The Matrix Reloaded is ultimately diminished by its affinity for all things exaggerated. For the Wachowskis, no chase is too long, no speech too windy, no Biblical reference too overt. By the end of nearly two-and-a-half hours, the Matrix hasn't been reloaded; it's been deflated.
by Skyler Miller review